ESTABLISHED CONTINGENCY PLANS CAN BE CHANGED ONLY BY THE COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF
by Sharon Rondeau
Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens was one of four people to have died at a U.S. outpost in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012 after it was attacked by terrorists with firebombs in a seven-hour siege
(Mar. 19, 2013) — Six months after the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, information from the Obama regime has been scant, leaving many unanswered questions.
After former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey and former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta testified to two congressional committees in January, no one in government has stated whether or not the lives lost on the night of September 11, 2012 could have been saved. However, emails exchanged among White House, State Department and FBI agents leaked to the media show that the regime knew about the attack shortly after it began.
Neither the State Department nor U.S. military commanders have been forthcoming about why Stevens and the approximately 36 other personnel serving the U.S. in Benghazi on September 11 could not have been saved by swift intervention from land, air or sea, or all three. Republican lawmakers are pressing for answers to why no military response was provided to the attack and where Obama was that evening; Panetta said that he “didn’t have enough time” to send reinforcements. The siege on the Benghazi outpost lasted approximately eight hours.
The State Department personnel who testified to the House Oversight Committee were aware that security was inadequate in the months leading up to the attack.
The resulting “upheaval” within the State Department reported by left-leaning CNN was actually the termination of one employee, with the other three shifted to other positions within State.
A Reuters report from Libya dated September 14, 2012 states that U.S. officials “believe could have been planned in advance,” but the Obama regime insisted the incident was “spontaneous” for several weeks until admitting that a terrorist attack was the cause. It has also been reported that the CIA was carrying out a mission in Benghazi close to where the four Americans were killed involving tracking missing weapons from the Gaddafi regime.
Two CIA employees, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, both former Navy SEALS, attempted to rescue Amb. Christopher Stevens and others within the building after it was firebombed on the evening of September 11, disobeying initial orders not to assist. Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods died serving the United States without any assistance from the U.S. military under former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
On October 26, 2012, Fox News reported that an order to “stand down” was given out “by the CIA chain of command” to preempt presumed military intervention against the attackers. However, former CIA Director David Petraeus has testified that he gave no such order, and a spokeswoman for the CIA said that no one “at any level” of the CIA issued the order.
Last Friday, Fox News reported that there are at least four survivors of the attack whose names have not been made available to Congress. Rep. Jason Chaffetz told Fox’s Martha McCallum that several survivors are recovering in Germany, but that information about their condition has been kept from members of the House. Chaffetz affirmed that he has been able to speak with one survivor’s father, who told Chaffetz of his son that “You won’t be able to find him because the State Department changed his name on all of his records.”
Reports have surfaced that the Benghazi outpost was not a consulate, but rather, a CIA operations location.
Sen. Lindsey Graham said in a Fox News interview that Benghazi survivors are “afraid” to tell of their experiences on September 11, 2012. Graham called the event “a debacle” which showcased a failed foreign policy. “They’ve been told to be quiet,” he added. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher said that the Obama regime is “covering up something.”
The White House has denied intimidating any of the Benghazi survivors.
Of the Benghazi debacle, former U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral James (Ace) Lyons said, “This attack should not have come as a surprise to anybody.” He related several incidents leading up to the attack and that an Al Qaeda-affiliated group had set up “roadblocks and checkpoints” just prior to the attack. When anchor Megyn Kelly asked Lyons about the United States’ handling of the incident, Lyons said that “well-armed” military attaches “could have been…in Benghazi in a matter of hours.” Lyons said he found it “inconceivable” that the military “didn’t know what was going on.”
Title X of the U.S. Code outlines the chain of command of the U.S. military, beginning with the President and Commander-in-Chief. Several retired military officers have stated that only an order from Obama would have stopped an intervention on the part of the military that night. Col. David Hunt and former CIA operative Mike Baker told Fox News’s Jeannine Pirro that information about the attack was communicated “in real time” to Washington. “We knew…that the Libyans – our friends – were doing nothing…” Baker said. Hunt said that “the United States military and the intelligence community know how to react to a firefight in another country.”
Tyrone Woods received an honorable discharge after 20 years of service in the U.S. Navy, later becoming a security functionary for the U.S. State Department
“You’ve got the resources in the region,” Baker continued. “They are there to hold off the hostiles until the cavalry shows up…and they will showup.“ “The point is, the military is supposed to back ‘em up,” Hunt said.
Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III (Ret.), a 20-year Navy veteran and recipient of two National Defense Service Medals, the Navy Achievement Medal, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, two Navy Expeditionary Medals, the Expert Pistol Medal and Expert Rifle Medal, the Humanitarian Service Medal and other awards, spoke with The Post & Email on his knowledge of military protocol and the way in which it should have been applied to the Benghazi attack.
CDR FITZPATRICK: Obama is connected to the deaths of the four Americans who died, including a U.S. ambassador.
In the military, we have what are called “preplanned responses.” Before something happens, it is envisioned, and it is a contingency where a United States ambassador falls into distress. We have preplanned responses for those circumstances: “If this happens, this is your first reaction.”
When Chris Stevens came under physical assault and his life was at risk, men who were in the area of responsibility in command positions – two of them I can name specifically: Gen. Carter Ham and one-star Rear Adm. Charles Gaouette, the fleet commander of the battle force that was patrolling the Persian Gulf – these two men were involved in carrying out those preplanned responses, and they started to do that. Then they were told to stop by Obama, who was the only person who could have issued that order.
[Editor's Note: Adm. Gaouette's whereabouts are unknown after he was relieved of his command last fall, and the organization "Special Operations Speaks" (SOS) is seeking information on why he has not been called to testify to Congress on what happened in Benghazi on September 11, 2012.]
You’re not going to find this anywhere because it is at the top-secret level. I know that because I used to be a custodian of those kinds of operation plans, preplanned responses and contingency responses: “What do you do on the USS Marvin Shields,” for example, “if this happens?” “This is what you do.”
There were operational commanders who were reacting to the contingency plans in place to come to the assistance of the United States ambassador whose life was at risk. These kinds of events are foreseeable, and we have contingency plans to react to save the life of the embassy officials to include, certainly, the life of the U.S. ambassador. That’s one of the reasons you have U.S. Marines as the first line of defense – they call them “Embassy Marines.”
THE POST & EMAIL: And this place didn’t have any.
CDR FITZPATRICK: Exactly, and the U.S. Marine Corps is the only service that performs that function; they hold the fort down until reinforcements arrive. That’s how this works. Obama has Marines protecting him, for goodness’ sakes!
The point is that Adm. Gaouette and General Ham took those first steps to activate the contingency plans which had already been approved by the commander-in-chief, regardless of who that is. These kinds of things can escalate very quickly into international events of extraordinary proportions. The kinds of things that are in these contingency plans, depending on what is happening and what the political environment looks like, can lead to larger combat or even an act of war. These contingency plans, because of what’s in them and because of what might happen should they be put into operation, have to be approved by the commander-in-chief.
THE POST & EMAIL: Does each new president have to approve the plans?”
CDR FITZPATRICK: What happens is the contingency plans are put in place, and once the new president comes into office, he is briefed on them. After he’s in office he can do with them what he will; he can modify them or cancel them altogether.
THE POST & EMAIL: Would a new president normally take the advice of the military commanders who assembled the plans?
There are people who are in this work 24/7. These plans are under constant review and revision. You have military professionals put these plans together, and then they are presented to the White House for examination and scrutiny. It’s as if it’s a bill that’s in committee. They are reviewed, changed, and tailored to the commands of the commander-in-chief, the President of the United States.
Do you know what “the football” is?
THE POST & EMAIL: Yes.
CDR FITZPATRICK: It’s the briefcase that is carried anywhere the president goes which is handcuffed to a military officer which carries our nuclear weapons release codes.
THE POST & EMAIL: Is he there even when Obama goes on his vacations?
He or she is always within steps of the president. It’s common knowledge. We have contingency operations which call for the release of either tactical nuclear weapons or strategic nuclear weapons, and these contingency plans are in place because, other than the circumstances which are envisioned in these very difficult and serious kinds of military operations, they are happening with the speed of heat. You don’t have time to think about how you’re going to react to them; you just have to react. We have different levels of reaction and contingency plans. There are contingency plans that say that at certain moments in time, to save this country, this is what you do.
Right now, North Korea is threatening to launch a nuclear weapon against us. There are contingency plans in place to react to any kind of aggression from North Korea. It’s a measured response and meant not to escalate, but to defend. The complexion of the response depends on the initial act. So we have contingency plans for different levels of aggression. There are some contingency plans which call for the launch of nuclear weapons against a hostile force, and that’s why the president is never but a few steps away from the person who is carrying the code book for the release of a nuclear weapon.
Glen Doherty was a former Navy SEAL and a responder to the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in 2000, which killed 17 sailors
THE POST & EMAIL: And that person carrying it cannot make that decision?
CDR FITZPATRICK: No. They have several different kinds of codes in the briefcase. The person holding the codes changes daily, and they change the codes daily. It’s like changing a radio frequency to mix up the enemy. If something happens, the commander-in-chief authorizes a response, and the officer opens up the briefcase and randomly picks out one of the release codes which sends out an emergency action message – it’s called an “EAM” – to the operational forces in the field.
THE POST & EMAIL: In the case of Benghazi, what might have initially occurred militarily?
CDR FITZPATRICK: One of the first things that could have happened was to launch alert jet aircraft and deploy them into the area of combat, or responsibility (AOR). The first response was that there could have been a number of jet aircraft capable of supersonic flight coming in over the target, and instead of dropping any weaponry, what they would do is to fly over that area so fast that they create a sonic boom.
THE POST & EMAIL: “What effect would that have?”
Just imagine, if you will, that you’re somebody on the ground and you hear jets coming in on you, not one, but 20. If you expect it, that’s one thing, but if you’re unprepared, all of a sudden you hear these tremendous explosions, and you feel the over-pressurization if the aircraft is low enough. So they start launching sonic booms.
Another contingency response – and this is what the two SEALS did, Doherty and Woods – is calling in air strikes. They had illuminated a target with laser illumination, and they were calling in an air strike to actually put ordinance on target that was being lased…that’s an increased level of response. So you’re going from creating an environmental impact to actually putting ordinance on target. It would have been a point target, with low-level ordinance and not nuclear. At these low-level responses, you’re buying time. You’re trying to confuse and disorient your enemy in the first instance; in the second instance, you have a lased target and are calling in an air strikes, and then it escalates from there to the point where you can be sending in the 82nd Airborne and putting troops on the ground or bringing them by airborne assault with helicopter-deployed troops. That’s how these things escalate from contingency plans.
THE POST & EMAIL: Understanding that there is some speculation here, who would Doherty and Woods have called?
CDR FITZPATRICK: When you have this kind of an event taking place – and this is portrayed in books and movies – they send out what’s called a “flash critic.” “Flash” is the highest precedence for transmission, and this type of message is read upon receipt. They are received in super-secret command centers around the globe: the National Military Command Center (NMCC), which is in the basement of the Pentagon; they are received in Foggy Bottom; they are received in the Situation Room in the White House. This is the kind of message which Gen. Carter Ham would have received, and this would have triggered his first response. He took that response, which is a pre-approved plan, and then he was told, as was Adm. Gaouette, to “stand down.” The “stand-down” order could have come only from the commander-in-chief.
THE POST & EMAIL: Because there was already a contingency plan to effect a rescue?
CDR FITZPATRICK: Yes. And the only person who had the authority to stop that from going forward was the commander-in-chief. What officer below the president is going to take responsibility for standing that down? Somebody might try it, but they’d be a fool!
So there’s a contingency plan in place; a flash critic message goes out; two of the operational commanders receive the flash critic message and react to it instantly: Adm. Gaouette and Gen. Ham. Gen. Ham was actually in the National Military Command Center in the basement of the Pentagon when the flash critic message came in. He just happened to be in Washington. He was the commander for AFRICOM. From that post where he was, he issued the order to respond. Then he was told to “stand down.” That came from the president. And the next thing that happened, both in Gen. Ham’s and Adm. Gauoette’s circumstances, was they disregarded the order from the White House and they proceeded to go forward anyway. And that’s why both men were fired.
THE POST & EMAIL: The story was that Adm. Gaouette was returned to his home port pending an investigation into a decision he made and that Gen. Ham was going to retire.”
CDR FITZPATRICK: I’m telling you what happened. I don’t know what other operational commanders were actually involved in a response and then told to stand down and then obeyed the order. Two of the officers who were ordered to stand down and disobeyed the order got “cashiered.”
A former ground radio maintenance specialist in the Air force, Sean Smith was working as an information management officer with the U.S. Foreign Service when he was killed on September 11, 2012 in the attack on the Benghazi outpost
THE POST & EMAIL: They haven’t spoken out yet. Can they?
CDR FITZPATRICK: If they speak out at this point, the kinds of things that Obama can do to them are very, very nasty, very sinister, very draconian; very bad kinds of things. And then they run into getting cross-wired with revealing national secrets, which would be the contents, for example, of these contingency plans or any other kind of extremely sensitive, top-secret communiques or plans. If they start to get into that which they are duty-bound to maintain as secret, like the CIA agent who has recently been prosecuted, then they risk getting tied up in some more serious things.
I am telling you that there are several kinds of low-level responses which would have saved Chris Stevens’s life and the lives of the others. It would have saved the other embassy workers from being injured, which is another reason why the Benghazi survivors are being silenced.”
THE POST & EMAIL: Given what you’ve just said about contingency plans and emergency message systems, how could Panetta and Dempsey have said that they “didn’t have enough information” to act?
CDR FITZPATRICK: Panetta was lying through his teeth. Let’s say you are the ambassador to Libya, and all of a sudden, you and your employees come under attack. You send out a flash critic message that says, “Help, we’re under attack!” That’s all the information that a guy like Leon Panetta at the receiving end of that message needs.”
THE POST & EMAIL: How much more information would he need other than ‘SOS?’”
CDR FITZPATRICK: Correct: ‘Save Our Ship, we are under attack.’ When you send out a flash critic message, you don’t do that carelessly or recklessly; it was Panetta’s job to react to the message in real time. You don’t sit back after receiving a flash critic message and say, ‘Can you send us a little more information?’ If Panetta or Dempsey or anyone else in a position of command authority had reservations, then the first kinds of responses that we could have exercised would have been the ones such as the sonic booms: Launch planes, go over the target fast, let the enemy know that we have planes in the air and that we are prepared to take the next step. If Panetta felt he needed more information, he could have taken that first level of reaction and said, ‘OK, send in planes to create sonic booms’ and then could say to the people on the ground at the embassy, ‘Send us more information; we have planes in the air en route…’ No harm is inflicted by the creation of a sonic boom.
Let me example this in one other way. I used to be an operations officer, and what you do is role-play. You think about how these kinds of events can happen overseas or anyplace in the world, for that matter. You have to assume that “the first report is always wrong” because operational commanders on the ground are in “the fog of war.” Reports that come in after that are modified. This is what military officers are trained to do: you don’t send a flash critic unless you want somebody to come in right now and help you out. Even if that first report is wrong, you’re saying, ‘This is not a drill; lives are at risk; come in and help us.’”
THE POST & EMAIL: Is that the message which Woods and Doherty sent?
CDR FITZPATRICK: I don’t believe that they sent the flash critic message; I believe it was somebody in the embassy’s communications.
THE POST & EMAIL: So people who haven’t been in the military know how to do that?
CDR FITZPATRICK: Correct. And in the meantime, Woods and Doherty were doing what they were trained to do, which was to coordinate with each other. The SEALS went out and set up a counterattack to prevent the attack from advancing into that safehouse, which what is was determined it was, and other people are responsible for sending out the SOS. So Doherty and Woods would not have sent the flash critic message, but they would have known that it was being sent out.
A flash critic is like sending out a tweet, and it goes only to those people who are authorized to receive it: to embassies in other parts of the world, operational commanders in every part of the world. That’s why we have regional commanders: Commander of the Pacific, Commander of Northcom, Commander Central, Commander South…all these commanding officers were in receipt of the flash critic message; They all get it. You also have the Senior Executive Service; when you promote to the admiral or general level, you’re a member of the SES. So it would have gone to very senior persons within the State Department, the civilian part of the Pentagon; it would have gone to the White House Situation Room; it goes to hundreds of places around the world in seconds.
THE POST & EMAIL: When Panetta said he met with Obama at 5:00 that afternoon and told him of the attack at that time, could he have been telling the truth?
CDR FITZPATRICK: I’m telling you that Obama already knew. Another responsibility of that watch officer who is carrying the “football” is to be in receipt of a flash critic message and to walk up to the president and say, “Mr. President, we have a flash critic message and you need to know about this now.”
THE POST & EMAIL: So it could not have been delayed until Panetta’s scheduled meeting with Obama at 5:00?
CDR FITZPATRICK: No, no one would have delayed this. It went out to a whole bunch of people.
THE POST & EMAIL: Then why aren’t other retired military officers explaining this to news anchors all over the country?
CDR FITZPATRICK: Ace Lyons did exactly that. He knows; he is talking to other flag officers. When you read the reports of his statements, that is what he is saying. Everything that Ace Lyons is telling you happened. At one point, he was the Commander of the Pacific, which is the largest region, so he knows first-hand about it. He was in a position to react and cause triggers to be pulled.
Editor’s Note: The Post & Email requested an interview of Adm. Lyons which was declined.
Over the last four years, CDR Fitzpatrick has been exposing institutionalized corruption within the Tenth Judicial District of Tennessee which the legislature has made only token advances to correct. On March 17, 2013, The Post & Email reported that the deployment of more than 100 local, state and federal officers into Madisonville, the county seat of Monroe County, on April 20, 2010 has a White House connection.